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  LOOPY'S WORLD: PART SIXTEEN A - THE PRODIGAL SON RETURNS

Steve 'Loopy' Newhouse

steve newhouse



loopyworld

I was sitting at home with my family, having just pigged out on barbecued pork and rice when the phone rang.

My Dad, thinking that every call is for him as he pays the bill, gets up to answer it. He looks at me in disgust and says: "It's for you".

"Hello?"

"Hi mate, it's Keith Wilfort. Just to give you warning that Tony Wiggens will be calling you tomorrow."

"Ok, but why?"

"There’s an opening for you. I can't add much more than that."

"Ok Keith. Thanks for letting me know. Chat soon buddy."

Well I wasn't expecting that, although it made sense in a strange way.

Article continues below...





When Maiden had done the UK leg of the 'Piece Of Mind' tour in early 83, I had tagged along with nothing better to do.

It all started with me, Keith Wilfort and a couple of friends driving down to Southampton to see the band.

Obviously it was great to see the band and crew after a few months but it also became a little obvious that Warren Poppe, the band's production assistant, and I were going to get on well too. He had heard about me and the rough ride I'd had working with Clive and became very friendly toward me.

After a chat with a few people Warren came to me and said: "Pack a bag, we need you."

"We?" I asked.

"OK, I need you. Can you get to Ipswich?"

"I think so," I replied.

"We can't pay you much," he went on, "but all your accommodation and food will be supplied and we'll give you £20 a day PD's," (per dium).

I didn't have to think too hard. I didn't even know what I was signing up for.

"Ok, I'll do it."

I smiled all the way home, even if it did take longer than it should have.

Keith was knackered and the drive home should have only taken a couple of hours, but he drove so slowly that I felt I could have got out and pushed the car a little quicker.

Bless him, he'd been at the office all day and still volunteered to drive us down to Southampton and back.

One thing I did learn about being in a car with Keith was his temper. I think he actually invented road rage.

We were driving somewhere in London and some idiot cut him up. Keith wound down his window and screamed at the top of his voice: "I hope your next shit's a pineapple."

Ahh!!! Those were the days.

But it wasn't always this much fun. We had some hard times too. One day I'll look back on those days and, if the memory allows, I'll fill in the gaps.

The following day I went to Ipswich with my mate Danny Connolly. Dan was a drinking buddy from The Royal Standard, Walthamstow.

I could tell you many stories about this pub relating to Di'Anno, Phil Lynott, Maiden and Tokyo Blade to mention a few, plus a couple of ex girlfriends that lived close by, including my first wife. But let's get back to the purpose of the story.

So, Danny drove us up to Ipswich knowing he would be coming back on his own but I covered his fuel bill through my expenses tab.

And that was a handy thing to have. As long as I had a receipt everything was covered, and I mean everything.

A few months later in Germany I was asked to purchase a gram of Columbia's finest. You don't get receipts for that kind of stuff so I wrote an IOU, which back then was totally acceptable. I would love to know how you'd explain that to the tax man.

We found somewhere to park, which just happened to be very close to the band's hotel but still about a mile away from the venue.

Once at the venue, the Gaumont I think, it was easy to get our backstage passes sorted out. Triple A's all the way (that's Access All Areas if you're unfamiliar with roadie talk).

I met up with Harris and Murray at the local pub, which was about a minute's walk from the back stage door and, as usual, there was the deluge of local punters trying to get photos and autographs.

I looked at Harry, who looked straight back and said: "That's what you're here for."

I instantly got it and stood in between him and Dave and about 20 people to give the guys some room to sign said autographs. I was only on my own for a few minutes when Warren turned up and helped me out.

After about half an hour of being pushed and shoved from side to side Warren said it was time to get Steve and Dave back to the venue. Show time was less than an hour.

I have to admit, when it came to doing this, the fans were brilliant. Obviously they wanted to be with their heroes but wherever we went the fans treated the band members with real respect.

When we said it was time to go, the fans all stood back and let them go. I know the band respected that too as, after each gig, all the members would come out to do a meet and greet. The boys would sign everything they had to, have their photos taken and everyone went home happy.

Getting the band back to the venue was pretty easy and I spent the rest of the show watching the gig from front of house with Doug, Lightsy and Danny. I made sure that Dan had a t-shirt to take home for his troubles, and then he took off for his long journey back to the East End, whilst I stayed at the band's hotel waiting to find out what was going on.

A couple of hours later and completely lubricated, Tony and Warren appeared and told me exactly what they wanted me to do, which was next to nothing. I mean that in the only way I can say it. They didn't want me to do a thing. Tax write off? Who knows, but all I had to do was be there.

I was put in the best hotels the country had to offer and didn't have to lift a finger.

Obviously I helped out where I could, getting towels for on stage, drinks etc, but I was told that most, if not all, positions were covered.

So why was I here?

I didn't mind though.

Let's face it, I was staying in some of the best hotels in the country and I was being paid to do fuck all. And I got to go out each night and get pissed with your heros.

They were still friends of course, but I did see a gap beginning to appear. And the gap was beginning to get bigger.

I found myself travelling with the band on this tour. We were using a couple of Volvo estates at the time. Tony Wiggens drove one and Warren drove the other.

Most hotels were only a couple of miles from each venue, but were always four or five star. Maiden had come such a long way in such a short time, it was hard to keep up with the pace.

And the crew had changed beyond recognition. Dave Lights was still there, and Doug Hall, Michael Kenney, and a few of the lighting crew, Roger, Derek, but that was pretty much it.

We did make one major acquirement from Judas Priest though, Dickie Bell, the production manager. A Birmingham lad, who was as driven as Harris. He knew the job, and the world inside out.

This guy was amazing at his job. You could take him anywhere and he would tell you exactly what was going to happen in the next few minutes, because he had been there, he had seen it, he had done it, and he had probably told the locals how to do it properly in the first place.

Nothing escaped his attention. If you screwed something up, he might leave it a day or two, then wham, you get a punch on the arm just to let you know he hadn't forgotten.

Dickie was the best there is, and he had the driest sense of humour ever. I think the end of the Flight 666 DVD is testimony to that.

We also managed to lure Marcus Cowe away from Priest. He was a guitar tech from Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, and like Dickie, had a great sense of humour.

But again I digress.

The UK leg of the 'Piece Of Mind' tour, although seeming to be very low key, meaning the band travelling in Volvos from gig to gig and all the band's equipment in only three 40 foot trailers, they were still selling out to huge audiences everywhere.

Only the year before we had played one show at a half full Sheffield City Hall, this time round we were doing two nights to a packed house, and every show was the same. Each night was a sell out.

The crowds were getting bigger, the show was getting bigger, the crew was getting bigger, and to see this happen in front of me was mind blowing.

Only four years before, I used to travel backwards and forwards to a studio in Clapton E5 to help them set up for rehearsal. Dammit, it was only five years ago when Paul Di'Anno had joined them.

There were a couple of occasions, and I mean a couple, when I was asked to accompany Bruce on a train from town to town.

Bruce is one of those people who gets bored easily, (ha ha, there's me telling you), but every now and then he liked to take a train somewhere, mainly because he was bored being in a car.

So, I was asked to travel with Bruce as a chaperone from Stoke to Bristol, via Birmingham. How hard can it be?

He wasn't the most talkative person I ever met, but we got to our destination with ease.

Note to self, don't try and interrupt a man with a 'How To Fly A Jet' manual in his hand. Totally untrue of course, but for comic value, I give myself 8 out of 10.

As it turned out, the band arrived at the hotel around the same time as me and Bruce, so apart from having a few hours on his own, the exercise seemed pointless.

I will never understand musicians and their differences. You create a beast, but then want to spend time away from it. It doesn't make sense to me, but then, I was a mere roadie. What would I know about pressure?

And so the UK leg of the tour continued.

After Bristol we had a couple of shows in Birmingham, one in Manchester and finished up with four shows in Hammersmith, finishing on 28th May, an easy date to remember as it was my Dad's Birthday.

After a brilliant end of tour party, we all said our goodbyes as normal. I went home feeling I had done enough to keep me in the band's good books, and was expecting a call to say: "Is your passport up to date?" etc, etc. It didn't happen.

The band went off and did a few dates in Europe, then headed off to do a huge US tour, while I went back to doing jigsaw puzzles, and carried on like I hadn't been away.

Such is the nature of the Beast.


Click here for the Loopyworld index, including Steve's tribute to Clive Burr...




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